WASP Gentleman: Rabbi, when is Hanukkah this year?
Rabbi: 25 Kislev - same as every year!
|Nambe Illume Menorah|
In a few past postings celebrating the Feast of Light I have included pictures of antique menorahs from various cultures and times. This year I thought I'd include a few photos of modern Hanukkah candelabrum.
|Olive Branch Menorah by Michael Aram|
The menorah is central to the celebration of Hanukkah as a symbol of the eight days that the miracle of the oil lasted at the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 2 BCE. The law required that the lamps be lit at all times during the rededication but only one small flask of sacred oil was found. Only enough to last a day. But miraculously the oil burned and lit the temple for the eight days it took to consecrate new oils.
The traditional Temple menorah has only seven branches as does the symbol on the coat of arms of Israel. The nine branches on the Hanukkah menorah give a place for a light for each day of the miracle and a shamash or "attendant" light. It is always placed above the others and serves for illumination and in most households is used to light the other candles.
Two of the rabbinical schools disagreed over the proper order for lighting the candles. The House of Shammai decreed that all the candles should be lit the first day and then one less candle each day. Their justification was that the miracle was at its greatest the first day. The House of Hillel believed that one candle should be lit the first day and one more each succeeding day as the greatness and wonder of the miracle increased. The later was chosen as the lawful and proper way of commemorating the miracle and is what is observed today.
|The Sabra Menorah by Judaica Designs USA|
As with all ritual objects the form and design has changed with the times and trends. Clay and pottery gave way to brass and metal; simple tribal patterns became the elaborate curves and esses of the Barqoue; Art Nouveau tendrils crept around Lions of Judah; and today young artists use metal, ceramic, wood and even plastic in their menorahs. What was once Mooresque has become Henry-Mooresque. And, as with their predecessors, sometimes there is a touch of humour in their designs - I can't imagine what sort of household would have Jonathan Adler's dignified hound at the Hanukkah table but you can never tell with people.
|Dachshund Menorah by Jonathan Adler|
* Wishing you a Hanukkah filled with light
November 28 - 1925: The Grand Ole Opry begins broadcasting in Nashville, Tennessee, as the WSM Barn Dance.